Every year, the National Eating Disorders Association acknowledges the last week in February as “NEDA Awareness Week” to call attention to the widespread struggle–and in some cases, the real suffering–caused by disordered eating and body image related issues. Each NEDA Awareness Week has a theme, and the theme this year is “Come as you are!”
It is a simple theme, but an important one. It contains an important reminder of the harmful effects of body dissatisfaction and the blunt instrument of arbitrary beauty standards. The pressures that our society bears on its members (conflicting messages of cooking shows, foodie culture, arbitrary beauty expectations and diet culture) contribute to a jumble of eating- and food-related anxieties. Not only is there very little daylight between beauty standards and body image dissatisfaction, focus on one is just about guaranteed to bring about the other; they are merely different aspects of the same thing. Because a commitment to achieving an unattainable standard of perfection automatically sets one up for some measure of dissatisfaction. The only way out of this losing game is not to buy into it.
I’m not suggesting that we don’t try to be, well, beautiful. I am suggesting that we get to define where our beauty lies. If we can learn to be comfortable in our own skin, if we can present ourselves in a way that reveals the magnificence underlying who we truly are, is that not the most potent form of beauty?
From moment to moment, we choose where we put our focus. So instead of being bothered by whatever dissatisfactions that might try to poke into our awarenesses, I choose to stand with the National Eating Disorders Association, when it suggests: “Accept Yourself, Accept Your Body, Celebrate Yourself, Celebrate Your Body!”
Where are you putting your focus?